It was an unusual year and a tough one for local business. Nevertheless, there were more entrepreneurs throughout the Town of Warwick who decided to take a risk and expand or open new businesses in 2020 than those who closed their doors.
But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions those numbers were low.
Michael Johndrow, executive director of the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce for the past 13 years, reported that there were 14 grand opening and anniversary ribbon cuttings in 2020, significantly lower than the 36 in 2019.
This January new members of the Board of Directors of the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce will continue the practice followed in 2020 when they meet virtually for their first meeting of the new term.
Not all celebrations involved grand openings or anniversaries.
On Feb. 25, before restrictions, local restaurants and musicians supported the eighth annual Mardi Gras for a Cause. It raised more than $17,000 for Backpack Snack Attack, an outreach program of the Warwick Reformed Church that provides food on weekends during the school year to nearly 300 children.
The impact of the coronavirus
In April the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce published the its annual Warwick Valley Official Guide for 2020-2021, which included an extensive list of yearly events, maps and a business directory.
However, under these unusual circumstances, distribution throughout the Hudson Valley was canceled. But printed copies were available at the chamber’s South Street Caboose Office and various businesses who are Chamber members.
And the full version of the guide could be viewed on the chamber’s website.
Unfortunately, many of the chamber-sponsored events listed in the guide, such as the annual Community Showcase, Ladies Night Out, Queen for a Day, Applefest and a Taste of Warwick, did not take place.
The chamber continued sponsoring business mixers, networking and educational events virtually.
It also gained 36 new members, bringing the total membership to 539.
The redevelopment of the former prison
Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton also reported that the redevelopment of the former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility had continued at an accelerated pace.
And in November, renovations of the original farm house on that site, known as the Manor House, had been completed and the building leased to the Orange County Industrial Development Agency.
The 27th annual Warwick Valley Farmers’ Market opened on schedule and by practicing social distancing and other safety procedures, remained open for the season.
Early in 2020 some businesses like The Computer Guy, which offers an array of computer services, was declared an essential business that would remain open. Other retail shops had occupancy restrictions that required posting a staff member outside to control the number of customers permitted at one time.
However, restaurants were especially hard hit by restrictions that changed back and forth from bad to worse. But an approved plan, suggested by Mayor Michael Newhard, closed Main Street and also Railroad Avenue and Spring Street to vehicular traffic on weekends to allow restaurants to set up tables on what would effectively be a pedestrian mall. And it would also attract visitors to retail stores.
It was welcomed by all.
Although Home for the Holidays had to celebrate without the free horse and wagon rides and a visit with Santa at Railroad Green, the downtown businesses reported a successful holiday season, thanks to community support during hard times. And the 10th annual Small Business Saturday was also declared a huge success.
Warwick Relief Market
Local citizens also saw other ways to help businesses survive.
Hopefully, Warwick Relief Market founders Carmela Borrazas and Nicole McCormick, for example, recruited more than 6,000 members to their Facebook-based group and raised more than $400,000 to assist Warwick’s small businesses during the pandemic restrictions.
Hopefully, with vaccine distribution, the celebrations and events sponsored by the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce and the businesses, that make the Town of Warwick such a great community, will return as usual and make 2021 a Happy New Year.